I guessing I’m showing my age with my reference to an old M.C. Hammer song lyric but I am seeing a bit grey in the little hair I have left. I’m also feeling my age in my joints and despite what many fitness and conditioning experts suggest I ought to be doing, I can’t face heading out and pounding the pavements for either hours on end or for hill sprints. You see, after spending a very large part of my adult life training, my knees and hips just aren’t happy with repetitive pounding. Too be blunt, they’re knackered.
So what’s an older guy to do for cardio when he can’t run you ask? Well, rowing is okay…I like rowing—it’s a great all over workout but also a bit dull. Let’s face it, after the novelty of watching your stroke rate, pace for each 500 meters, wattage or calories per hour fluctuate up and down a few times, the graphic display on a typical rower is hardly going to give the Wii a run for it’s money. Cycling is okay too except a) it makes my groin go worryingly numb and b) in Cyprus, where I live, drivers treat cyclists as though we personally broke into their houses, stole their life savings and ran off with their first born child. To say you take your life into your hands on the roads of Cyprus is like saying sticking pins in your eyes is a bad idea. As for indoor cycling, see the above comments re. rowing machine displays. Yawntastic.
No – for me cardio should be fun, involve the whole body, not take all bloody day and leave me exhilarated but suitably knackered. To date, I reckon the best joint friendly, most fun and all round satisfying cardio workout is knocking seven bells of shit out of a oversize tire with a heavy sledgehammer.
Okay, so this isn’t the kind of exercise you can do in the gym but there is nothing to stop you performing this splendid workout in the privacy of your own garden, on a piece of wasteland located conveniently close to your home, down on the beach or in your mother-in-laws best sitting room. Some forward thinking gym managers may even let you set up your tire and hammer combo in the pool plant room or car park. I know I would if you asked me nicely…
So – how to arrange your workout. Firstly, as mentioned, you need a nice big old tire. You can get one free from a tire dealer. Big SUV tires are ideal as they are hard to miss. This is especially important if you have the eye-hand coordination of a drunken one armed juggler and if you value your floor. Next, you need a hammer. No need to buy s special exercise hammer—I’ve seen these for sale recently complete with ergonomic hand grip, aerodynamic head and three figure price tag. Get yourself down to the local hardware store and buy a regular sledgehammer. Weight wise; go for something around 4 to 6kg. Any heavier and your strike rate comes way down and you’ll get less of a cardio workout because of local muscular fatigue. Finally you’ll want some work gloves to protect your office-dweller hands from that nasty rough hammer handle. Even if you have hands like a crocodile’s arse gloves will stop your hands from slipping off the hammer handle—vital if you want to avoid doing time for accidental manslaughter.
So you have your tire, your hammer and your gloves. You’ve checked the surrounding area for obstructions and are confident no one will walk into hammer range. So, what are you waiting for? Hit the shit out of that tire! The first few swings will feel kind of awkward until you figure out your basic swinging technique. Don’t worry about power yet, just get a nice steady rhythm going. Try alternating sides every few strikes to ensure you don’t get all lopsided.
You have two options when it comes to swinging your hammer: the choke and no-choke grip. The choke grip is where one hand stays at the end of the hammer handle and your other hand slides up as you raise the hammer and down as you swing whereas the no-choke grip requires that you keep both hands fixed in place at the bottom of the handle. Both grips are fine but the choke grip allows for a faster strike rate.
Once you have experimented a little with your grips and alternating sides, it’s time to beat that tire like it stole from you. In other words, start trying to hit that bad boy HARD! Really use your arms, abs and hips to try and not just hit the tire but hit through it. Make sure you tighten your grip at the moment of impact otherwise that 6 kg lump of metal and wood is liable to spring out of your hand and bounce God-knows-where. Try to bring the hammer directly down your midline and end each strike with a “take that you bastard!” war cry for maximum training effect.
Now you have perfected your tire swinging technique, it’s time to look at a few workout ideas. These are a few of my favorites and I reckon that you’ll enjoy them too but one word of warning: sledgehammer training is tough on your forearm so expect them to pump up like a horny teenager left alone with unlimited access to the internet and too much time on his hands, if you get my meaning…
Density Blocks – simply try and perform as many strikes as you can in a given time e.g. 5 minutes or 10 minutes. Keep count of how many times you hit the tire and try to beat your score next time you repeat the workout.
Repetition Races – see how long it takes you to perform 100, 250 or 500 hammer strikes. I once did 1000 strikes in a little under 30 minutes which was an awesome cardio workout although even for me the novelty of hitting something and not getting arrested wore off after the 200th hit.
“Boxer” Intervals – perform 3 minutes of hitting and then take a minute rest. Repeat for 4 to 6 “rounds”.
Tabata intervals – the daddy of sledgehammer workouts! Perform 10 sets of 20 seconds work with 10 second recoveries. This 5 minute workout never fails to kick my ass but then that’s why I love it!
Pat’s Personal Sledgehammer Combo Workout
This is my own sledgehammer only conditioning workout that I use when I need to open up a six-pack of whoop ass on myself. Crank up the Prodigy and SMACK THAT BITCH UP! Rest around 60 to 90 seconds between each section of the workout…
1) 5 minute density block (getting progressively faster/harder by way of a warm up)
2) 3 x 3 minute rounds with 60 second rest between sets (focusing on power more than speed)
3) 10 x Tabata intervals (focusing on speed more than power)
4) 5 minute density block (decreasing speed and power by way of a cool down)
So there you have it – proper cardio for real men. The only manlier cardio workouts I can think off are sparring and wrestling bears. Be like a baggy pants wearing Christian rap star—make it Hammer Time!